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Area along the Bodrog



fishing in Bodrogköz

Catching fish has been a long tradition on the Bodrog River. It's been done not only on the river but also on its oxbows, lakes and streams, creeks as well. This wonderful waterworld has been providing livelihood for the fishermen and for other people for centuries. The tools and equipments used in the past are still in use with smaller modifications. During winter, people caught fish through drilled holes on the ice. Fresh and dried fish were sold on local and regional markets, such as the fish-market of Sárospatak.


The forests meadows, wetlands of the Bodrogköz and Tokaj-Hegyalja are still abounding in games and waterfowls. No matter if people only want to watch the birds or hunt them, it is certain that one will have plenty of luck finding them, if they're approached with due respect. Birding has been common especially in the Bodrog area, where the thousands of birds offered spread table for the inhabitants, eggs and nestlings were easy targets even directly from boats. The fishing, herder people found great delight in eating the eggs and meats of the ducks, geese or coots, no matter if it was raw or roasted.


Waiting in the shallow water for the birds to come back to their nests – it has been practiced for centuries. Even the regular floodings helped the people of Bodrogköz to get a special catch: during these floodings, foxes, rabbits, and others jammed into small "islands" offering easy prey. During the winter, game footprints were followed by hunters, in this chases dogs helped in. Otters and wolves caused lot of troubles in the past. Hunting is still a very popular sport in the Bodrogköz and Hegyalja areas. Games, such as roe deer, red deer, wild boar are more common in the Hegyalja, while on flat, grassy areas fowls and small games such as rabbits are hunted.

Animal husbandry, raising livestocks

Cattle and sheep production brought the highest income for the families who where grazing their livestocks on the Bodrogköz floodplains. In this traditional livelihood, the wet meadows and grasslands played crucial roles as the number one source of natural crops. From the areas which were flooded in spring and early summer, the animals were herded to the valleys of the Zemplén-mountains to graze, while for the domesticated animals of the mountains, the Bodrogköz gave summer "residence" until late autumn. Cattle keeping dominated in the Bodrogköz area, because it provided the people with milk, meat and served as a draught animal as well. In the extensive marshland oakleys, where acorn was plentiful, pigs were kept in large numbers.

Land cultivation

charcoal-kiln in Zemplén

The land cultivation methods of the floodplains of Bodrogköz have been adapted to the geographical and economical conditions. Areas which situated higher in the floodplains were apt for agricultural production. The crops were produced mostly for self-supporting reasons, but the people of the Hegyalja region were more and more depended on it too. Crops like wheat, rye, barley were ground in water, horse, or boat mills. Legumes, hemp, flax, tobacco, melon and fruits were also produced. Beginning from the 19th century, the economical structure of the Bodrogköz started to change: the cultivation and garden culture moved to the lower floodplain areas, where - after a few good harvests -, production fell downward. This complex phenomenon resulted in the decrease of overall production rates, and determined the size of human population in the area.


Timber from the forests has been utilized in different ways by the local people for centuries. Forests offered winter shelter for the wildlife, and secured the people's construction, firewood and tool material needs. Timber was the construction material for transportation equipments (boats, carts); mills and bridges were built from it. The extraordinary quality of the tokaji wine would not be the same without the barrels made of oak from the Zenmplén-mountains. Poles, supporting the grapes were also made out of this oak. Charcoal making also required plenty of wood. Willow sticks were used to make fishing equipments, baskets etc. Continually from the 13th century with the growing population of the area, the cutting of forests increased accordingly.


From conservational point of view, the importance of reedy areas is outstanding, because it provides habitat for animals and gives nesting place for birds, while its filtering role can also be utilized. From economical point of view they also play important role, because reed "production" consists mainly of its harvest and does not require other care. It's harvested in the winter because its easy approach from the ice and because this is when the wildlife is less disturbed (birds mostly). Top quality reed is used for thatched roofs, but panels, drapes and other products are made of it as well. Lower quality reed is still good for burning, or as mushroom substrate. Today, reed should deserve more attention because of its ecological function and economical production or because it is free of harmful substances.


Muskegs, bogs with thousands of flowers are excellent places for bees. Thousands of willow catkins from early spring, to every kind of other flowers until late autumn, this place is a spread table for honey producing bees. About 100 years ago, we could have found hives in almost every yard. Bee- keepers in the past had their hives under constant watch. The hives were placed in higher elevations on the floodplains, where floods did not disturb them. These places were protected with willow stick fences and covered with reed or thatched roof. Bees often hid their honey in willow tree cavities, from where people pilvered if they found it. Today, less people keep their bees, good honey is a valuable product though, and it could play important role among traditional medicines, especially in treating allergy and respiratory diseases.

Viticulture, wine making

wine making in Hegyalja

The wine country called Tokaj-Hegyalja, produces the best Hungarian white wine. What's more it is a World Heritage Site, for its thousand's year culture. Even the Gaelic people grew grape here, and later the Settling Magyars – who already know how to grow grape - found flourishing viticulture in this region (896 A.D.) The knowledge of viticulture and winemaking has been passed on from father to son for centuries in this region. The royal order from 1737 aimed at preserving the historical wine region, by declaring the first closed wine region of the world and regulating the most important rules and procedures which guaranteed the quality of this wine. These regulations more or less still exist in today's law. Winemaking consists of two major procedures: grape production or viticulture and winemaking and ageing of wine. These activites present year-round occupation for the locals and it is still arduous, labouring task for the producers from the grapes all the way to the wine market.

Barrel manufacturing

The barrel which is used for ageing has significant effect on the quality of wine. In the Hegyalja region, the "gönci" and "szerednyei" barrel types evolved and became unique measure and storage units. The size of the "gönci" barrel is 65 x 65 x 54 cm, its cubic capacity is 136,6 liters. This has become the unit of aszú making besides the "puttony". Aszú and Szamorodni wines – if possible -, are aged in new oak barrels for at least two years. "Szerednyei" barrel's capacity is 225 liters. Today, Erdőbénye is the home of barrel-making; this is where the majority of the barrels are manufactured. Deep in the Zemplén-mountains, in the cooper's village, this profession is found so important, that the coopers resuscitated the 700-year old coopers' dance, which is performed during illustrious occasions.

Stonework, stone-cutting

The stones from the volcanic Zemplén-mountains have been used for various purposes over the centuries, old, abandoned quarries can be found in many places. The main objective of the stonework was related to architecture: the primary material for the construction of castles, forts and churches is stone. The cutting of stones -after quarrying- required expertise. The other main purpose of the stone quarrying was to produce millstones or millstone-cutting. One of the best millstone materials came out of the quarries of Megyer-hill next to Sárospatak, from the 15th century, until the end of the 19th century. The lake, which formed in site of these quarries, is one of the most popular tourist destinations of the region and it is also a stop on a study trail.



The clay has been widely used to make pottery in the region. In Sárospatak, this craft has been practiced from the early middle ages. Potters in Sárospatak formed their guild in 1527; right after Sárospatak had gained its town status. I. Rákóczi György invited Anabaptists to settle down in the first half of the 17th century, their effect on pottery decoration lasted for centuries. Between the 17th and 19th centuries pots spread among the lower noble class and the city dwelling commoner class. From 1850 however, it became available for the peasantry as well. In the meantine though, the quality, decoration and production methods of these pots have changed radically. Traditional ceramics are still produced in Sárospatak and around by artisans and also in local pottery manufacturers.

Weaving, embroidery

Homespuns in the Bodrogköz have a typical local style, because until the 20th century, this region had preserved strong "archaic" folk culture. Natural environment has always been favourable for hemp cultivation in this region, hemp processing was also advanced. This textile culture played very important role in rural life, each momentous family occasion produced its own hand-made tucker. Embroidery, especially the noble kind, was popular in the Hegyalja region, its spreading is closely tied to the reformation movement. There are large numbers of woven pieces in the scientific collections of the Calvinistic Collegium in Sárospatak, and in the Calvinistic Church in Bodrogkeresztúr.

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